This article contains minor spoilers for Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
Our mighty Eternian hero and his celebrated motley crew of bouncing and shooting heroes did not originate as the beloved moral wielding Filmation show (aka marketing campaign) of the 80s. His origins are much more concrete than animation cells, mired in plastic and slime. Before he uttered the words “By the Power of Grayskull” on TV to throngs of enthused children, he first held up a plastic Power Sword in his molded toy hand.
Well, half a Power Sword.
Accompanied by mini comics that did not line up with the show, and kids books that sorta kinda but also didn’t really align, He-Man has more origin stories and confusing mythology than you can shake multi-colored Power Swords at. And that’s before the newspaper run, several other shows (some with space ponytails), a very weird movie, and all the Superman comic book battles eternally asking who the most powerful man in the universe is.
Anyone who thinks Revelation has “not been true to its source material” has forgotten the hodge podge of source materials that has upheld this line for almost four decades. Kevin Smith is a master alchemist, remembering the ingredients that stood out in the original show (Queen Marlena hinting that she knew Adam was He-Man, for example), and combined them expertly with other shiny parts of the (often) confusing Masters of the Universe mythology.
My favorite part, out of many favorite parts, was the odes to the toys. And so, here are my top 5 absolute favorite nods to the strange and entertaining toy line that’s celebrated to this day:
5. Vehicles of Questionable Utility
Aligned with the at times questionable (but descriptive) naming of characters, such as Fisto and Stinkor, the original toy line had some equally questionable but uber cool vehicles. They had the basic show ones, sure, like the Wind Raider, but they also had Roton, the Land Shark and the Bashasaurus (bonus 1: all of these have eyes. Bonus 2: go listen to this commercial and sing the Bashasaurus song with me). They all made appearances in the first episode, and looked just like the vintage toys.
4. The Two Halves of the Power Sword
In the original mini comics that came with the characters, and as part of the toy line, the Power Sword came in two halves. Skeletor had one, and He-Man the other. When combined, you got the powers of the universe and all ensuing coolness. The fact that it was expertly woven into the tale would make all the Skeletors in all the dimensions happy.
3. Unlocking the Powers of Grayskull
The original castle Grayskull (and repeated in pretty much every incarnation since) came with a fun feature: you stuck the Power Sword in a hole by the jawbridge (all the cool kids call it that), and it reveals the powers of the castle by opening it. There was also an orb room, which was rather unprotected, sure. In Revelation, He-Man had to plunge the Power Sword in the right hole to reveal the true powers of Grayskull, just like for the toy line.
2. Eternia as Preternia
Preternia and Subternia are part of the Masters’ confusing mythos, and I love that they turned them into a type of heaven and hell in this show. The design for Preternia wasn’t accidental, either. One of the last playsets of the original toy line was Eternia. It didn’t look like anything in the show, but it was cool. And it’s rare to find complete nowadays, so it’s worth a pretty penny. One of those collecting holy grails. And it’s what was used to form Preternia.
1. Wun-Dar, AKA Savage He-Man, AKA Wonder Bread He-Man
Wun-Dar is by far my favorite. Back in the early days of the Internet (close your eyes and listen to that screeching dial up modem), rumors came forth of Savage He-Man, armed with gritty pictures of this toy variant supposedly as a Wonder Bread (of all things) giveaway. Once it no longer took a day’s commitment to download one non-grainy pic (feel the smooth power of the Internet), toy sleuths tried to uncover his true origins and failed completely. All that is known is that, yes, it was a Mattel product and some kind of promotion. The rest of the story may never come to light (I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess record keeping wasn’t a strength at Mattel). This only strengthened his presence as a rare mythical figure, oft spoken of but rarely seen. In 2010, Mattel took out a collector’s figure of him and named him Wun-Dar. That this weird variant was in the show was just a happy thing.
There were tons more toy nods in the show, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store in the second half of the season! If you’d like to know more about the origins of MOTU (why wouldn’t you?), check out their episode of “The Toys that Made Us” on Netflix, or “The Powers of Grayskull” documentary. You can also get all the mini comics, gloriously confusing newspaper strips, and a bunch of reference books from Dark Horse They’re all worth it, trust me (glances over at buckling shelf).
Until next time, remember that plastic can be just as addictive as drugs, so be a responsible purchaser and OMG IS THAT A NEW HE-MAN TOY omg i need it
excuse me gotta go
Marie Bilodeau is an SFF author, a professional storyteller, and a collector of Masters of the Universe action figures. She loves a good glittery adventure and currently lives in Ottawa, Canada with an enthusiastic baker, four cats, and many unicorns. Visit her virtually at mariebilodeau.com.